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Thursday, May 5, 2011
The little things that win games

By David Schoenfield

So I stayed up last night watching Michael Pineda pitch for the Mariners. And when that ended, the Angels-Red Sox game was still going on after a long rain delay. So I watched that to its conclusion.

The key play occurred in the bottom of the 12th, when Kevin Youkilis lofted a double off the top of the Green Monster, with Marco Scutaro on first. Vernon Wells played the bounce off the wall as Scutaro rounded third, relayed to shortstop Erick Aybar just outside the infield cutoff, and Aybar threw an absolute pea to catcher Jeff Mathis, right on target to nail the sliding Scutaro. The Angels escaped the inning and won in the 13th off Daisuke Matsuzaka.

In the box score, Aybar gets an assist. A minor contribution to his team's victory. But how many shortstops make that play? Seventy percent? Fifty percent? Thirty percent? It was a perfect throw, perfectly on target. Two feet off line, or with a little less zip, and Scutaro is safe and the Red Sox win. There is no advanced defensive metric that can measure this. We don't even know how often Aybar would make this play given the same opportunity. But the point is this: On this night, he did execute. Beautifully. And it won his team the ballgame.

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